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Colts owner has way with words

Irsay active on Twitter and uses lyrical prose to get points across to followers and team

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

10:04 PM CDT, September 6, 2012

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The temptation is to define the man, or at least his body of work, by 140 character messages.

Yes, the Colts' owner is an active and wildly popular tweeter with more than 180,000 followers.

But the owner of the Colts is Jim Irsay, not @JimIrsay.

That is guitar-playing, song-writing, memorabilia-collecting, loud suit-wearing, team-owning Jim Irsay.

As a 53-year old who has been active in the NFL for 41 years, Irsay is a free spirit who has come to appreciate stability.

But he has been rocking the Colts' boat quite a bit lately.

The Loyola Academy graduate from Winnetka recently caused a stir with a series of tweets that hinted the Colts were on the verge of a big deal.

"TRADE WINDS BLOWING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" he tweeted on Aug. 23.

Three days later the Colts acquired cornerback Vontae Davis from the Dolphins for a second-round draft pick.

Irsay took some heat over the unconventional way he set off a firestorm, and then he fired a few salvos back.

"If u don't like it buy ur own team and try to make the playoffs 9 seasons n a row n put together 7 straight 12 win seasons n a row as Owner!" he tweeted.

Irsay and his Colts have accomplished quite a bit, including winning the Super Bowl, getting a new stadium built and hosting a Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

He is an owner who can set trends.

When asked why he tweets, he said, "(Late Chiefs owner and NFL innovator) Lamar Hunt was always one of the people I watched and admired growing up. Like he did, you are always looking for ways to keep growing in terms of technology and what's available, and what brings fun into the game."

Many of Irsay's tweets have nothing to do with the NFL. He has mused on Andy Kaufman, Hunter S. Thompson and Paul Simon lyrics, to name a few.

"It's also to me an artistic way to communicate," he said. "There is a poetry to it. I've found it interesting that you can tweet a couple of lyrics from a song and people think, he's wild, he's crazy.

"In the Twitter account, I may come across as very different from (Steelers owner) Dan Rooney, for instance. But the way Dan and I operate our teams, where our core spiritual values are, really are lined up the same."

Like Rooney, Irsay likes to hire good people and keep them in place. So he found it heart wrenching to embark on the offseason housecleaning which saw Irsay sweep out top executive Bill Polian, coach Jim Caldwell, quarterback Peyton Manning and many of the other players who helped the Colts get the top.

"After we lost in Jacksonville and secured the first pick in the draft, I left the locker room and got on the bus," Irsay said. "Tears were rolling down my face. It was me realizing an era had come to an end. I knew the decisions I had to make."

He thought the decision to clear the way for Andrew Luck was in the best interests of both Manning and the Colts, and he said Manning was of like mind.

Irsay hopes Luck's Colts can do something Manning's Colts could not.

"We all hurt that we didn't have more than one championship in that era," he said. "In this next era, I'm hoping to have multiple championships."

Championships were a foreign concept to Irsay growing up. Before Robert Irsay purchased the Colts in 1972, he was a Bears season ticket holder who often took son Jim to games at Wrigley Field.

Jim also was a die-hard Cubs fan who once waited 11/2 hours at a bank to get Ernie Banks' autograph.

"I remember coming out of fourth grade every day, asking if Ernie hit his 500th," he said.

Irsay got to know George Halas, and Halas even attended Irsay's confirmation and wedding.

"It was a great honor for a team owner to spend time with me, like President (Barack) Obama having met George Washington," he said.

So Irsay still gets pumped up about playing the Bears in Chicago. He's throwing a big bash the night before the Sunday's season opener in Soldier Field for his Chicago family and friends and anticipates he will be doling out about 150 tickets for the game.

Irsay can spin a yarn about the father of our country as well as Papa Bear. He owns a letter written by George Washington. Also in his cultural collection are guitars once owned by George Harrison and Jerry Garcia and a first-edition Playboy magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

His prize is the 120-foot scroll on which Jack Kerouac typed On the Road. Irsay paid $2.43 million for it but said he recently fielded an offer of "eight figures." He turned it down.

He similarly was rebuffed in a recent attempt to purchase the Beatles' drum skin from the Sgt. Pepper album.

"You look for things that would have relevance 40, 50, 80 years from now," Irsay said.

Like Andrew Luck, perhaps?

"The collection is fun, but nothing is as fun as working and building the football team and winning and having success," Irsay said. "I couldn't be more pleased with where we sit right now. I'm so excited looking to the new era."

That era starts Sunday.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei